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Southwell says it’s more important than ever to get a flu shot this season

Southwell urges local residents to get a flu shot this flu season as flu cases are expected to rise this year. Southwell consists of Tift Regional Medical Center (TRMC) in Tifton, Southwell Medical and South Health and Rehabilitation in Adel, and various physician practices and outpatient centers located throughout the region.

“The flu shot is the strongest protection against getting the flu,” said Rubal Patel, MD, FCCP,  Southwell’s Medical Director, Pulmonary Medicine and Critical Care, who also serves as chair of the healthcare system’s flu committee. “While social distancing and wearing masks kept recent flu seasons milder than pre-pandemic levels, flu cases are expected to rise as COVID-19 restrictions are being lifted.”

Dr. Patel said flu shots reduce the severity of symptoms and helps to speed the recovery of those who get infected with the flu. She also stressed that people cannot get the flu from the flu shot.

“You should receive a flu shot every year as flu viruses are constantly changing and your protection from the flu vaccine declines over time,” said Dr. Patel. “It is best to be vaccinated before flu begins to spread in our community, ideally before the end of October.”

Flu season in North America typically occurs between October and May. Dr. Patel said this long window of opportunity poses a risk that the viruses that cause COVID-19 and the flu may spread in the community at the

same time during flu season.

“If this happens, people could become ill with COVID-19 and the flu at the same time,” said Dr. Patel. “Getting vaccinated for COVID-19 and the flu can reduce their spread. The COVID-19 vaccine alone does not protect you from getting the flu. You can receive the flu shot and COVID-19 vaccine or booster at the same time. The flu and COVID 19 vaccines shot are very easy to obtain in our community.”

Dr. Patel said the more people who get vaccinated, the more people will be protected from flu, including older

people, very young children, pregnant women, and people with certain long-term health conditions who are more vulnerable to serious flu complications.

In addition to a flu shot, Dr. Patel recommends other ways to help limit the spread of influenza. Some basic rules-of-thumb include:

  • Wash your hands regularly.
  • Don’t touch your eyes, nose or mouth.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue or your elbow if a tissue isn’t available.
  • Stay away from those who are sick.
  • If you think you have the flu, stay home.
  • Spread the word about getting the flu vaccine.

Additional information can be found at www.cdc.gov/flu.

“We appreciate the community’s help and cooperation in reducing the spread of flu and COVID-19,” said Dr.